The problem with feminism

Alice | Letters to my DaughterBlog, Feminism & Gender Issues37 Comments

Header image: White background with bold black lines drawn in random straight edged pattern. A pink feminism symbol sits on top along with title in whit text on blue background. (The problem with feminism - Letters to my Daughter)

I know, I know, I’m a self proclaimed feminist parenting blogger, so can I really have a problem with feminism? Well, yes, and I’ll tell you why.

I commented on a post about feminism the other day, and I said something like “feminism is great, but it’s radfems that spoil it for the rest of us and give feminism a bad name”. I viewed ‘radfems’ (radical feminists) as being those that hate men and stomp all over other women weilding their own radical ideas of what women should be.

Then, literally a few hours later, I was reading another excellent post about feminist issues that I agreed with wholeheartedly. I looked the author up on Twitter because I saw myself becoming a bit of a fangirl, and lo and behold, she describes herself as a radfem.

So am I allowed to like her? She didn’t seem that unreasonable in her post. Maybe I don’t know what radfem means?

So I looked it up.

What’s a Radfem anyway?

Wikipedia tells me that ‘radical’ in radical feminism means ‘root’. It also says that the core belief of radical feminism is that we live in a patriarchal society and this must end to bring equality of gender. (To put it super simply).

Thoughtco also specifies that radical feminism opposes patriarchy, not men. Radfems therefore are not (necessarily) ‘man-haters’, but do believe in ‘smashing the patriarchy’ (which as it happens, is super fun to say… SMASH THE PATRIARCHY! Woop!)

This highlights one problem with feminism… The definitions are confused, even feminists don’t know what feminism means.

My version of feminism

I’ve never done a women’s studies degree, or module, or even read a book about it. My knowledge of the history of feminism is sketchy at best, drawn from news, hearsay and films. Does that make me a bad feminist? I don’t think so.

Women protest with a sign saying "Still we rise" (The problem with feminism - Letters to my Daughter)

Alexa Mazzarello

I have my own definition of feminism, and that is a desire for true equality for all sexes, and a commitment to fighting for that. I might not join protests on the regs or fiercely debate feminist issues at every opportunity. That’s not me. I will give my opinion when I feel it’s needed, I will write and share blog posts to empower women and promote equality. I will teach my daughter to view everyone equally and try to give her a well rounded view of women. I will support all women in making their own decisions and do my best not to judge when their views oppose mine.

Because that’s the core of what it’s about… It’s about everyone being free to make up their own mind without conscious or subconscious influence or gender bias.

If my daughter wants to wear pink clothes and glittery bows in her hair, then she damn well can. But I want that to be because the colour makes her feel happy and the glitter looks magical. Not because she’s seen a hundred million representations of girls wearing the same ‘girl’ uniform. I want boys to wear pink clothes and glittery bows too if they damn well like, free of chastisement.

The problem with feminism

The problem with feminism is that we’ve all got our wires crossed. It sometimes feels like you can’t call yourself a feminist unless you know what you’re talking about. There are so many wonderful, eloquent feminists out there who have their ideas about feminism figured out. Some of them I agree with, some of them make me feel a bit awkward.

But I’d argue that feminism is both unique to us all, and the same for everyone. The overarching belief we all share is that women should not be considered inferior to men. The nuances of that belief however, are unique to us all.

Why are you afraid to label yourself a feminist?

You tell someone you’re a feminist, and they’ll either woop or roll their eyes. It’s scary giving yourself a label and feeling the pressure to live up to it.

Can you be a feminist and still wear make up? Can you be a feminist and still shave your armpits? Can you be a feminist and still rely on your husband to do the DIY? Can you be a feminist and not know the meaning of radical feminism?

A resounding yes to all of the above.

You can also be a feminist and do the opposite of all those things. You can be a feminist and not even think about those things being an issue.

Rear view of a woman standing with her arms outstretched in front of crashing waves. (The problem with feminism - Letters to my Daughter)

Ryan Moreno

Emma Watson once said “If you believe in equality, you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you.”

It’s THAT simple.

The problem with feminism is we’ve over complicated it.

The media, as it does, has picked out the headline worthy actions of a select few and called it feminism. We’ve associated feminism with activists. But what about the simple things most feminists do each day to support the movement?

Everyday feminism

I thought about the everyday things I do that I consider to be feminist actions…

  • I choose not to wear make up most days because I like my face without it (and can’t be bothered – probably more that one tbh)
  • I choose to wear make up some days because I like the way my face looks with it on.
  • I choose not to remove my body hair because it’s not important to me (and for a host of other reasons).
  • I let my daughter choose her own clothes each day, and when we go shopping, because I want her to learn to pay attention to herself and her own preferences while she’s still young.
  • I share household tasks and admin with my husband depending on whose skill set best fits the task, or who has the time to spare.
  • I choose clothes to match how I am feeling on a given day.
  • I write blog posts about equality and feminism.
  • I correct my daughter if she intimates that she or another child can’t play with a toy because of their gender.
  • I choose to have long hair because I prefer the way it looks.
  • I sometimes choose to cut my hair short just to make sure I don’t prefer it that way.

A recurring theme there is choice. Choosing based on your own preferences, your own skills, your own beliefs are all feminist actions (in my book). Being forced or coerced to choose because of other people’s or society’s opinions is what feminism is here to stop.

The problem with feminism is we all need to own it more. We don’t need to have a perfectly packaged idea of what feminism was and is and could be. If we wait for that to form, we’ll be waiting a long time. We just need to own it for ourselves, and act like we joint-own the joint. We need to acknowledge other women’s right to have differing views and celebrate the fact that that disagreement is a sign that we can all think for ourselves.

Your brand of feminism is just as valid as mine, and Emma Watson’s, and Germain Greer’s, and Deborah Francis-White’s.

Don’t be afraid of feminism. Own your own. Then there won’t be a problem!

How many everyday acts of feminism do you carry out? Do you call yourself a feminist or do you worry about labelling yourself? Why?
Can I be a feminist and still have a problem with feminism? Yes! (The problem with feminism - Letters to my Daughter)

37 Comments on “The problem with feminism”

  1. I love this! I consider myself a feminist but I do do a lot of ‘unfeminist’ things I guess. Our household is pretty traditional in the fact I work PT And do the household ‘admin’ but it just works for us and suits our family. Plus the recent debate on grid girls focused on ‘choice’ but I was so pleased they were banned as I just thought the whole thing was weird! I wondered then if I was going against the ‘feminist’ movement. So your post is a really refreshing read!

  2. Love this post. Very interesting. I’m sure I was born a feminist. Maybe I knew my real dad walked away scot free from his duties while I was in the womb, leaving my mum years of poverty with me and my brother as babies. I have, however, always loved the men in my life. The word feminism back then was considered extreme. Bra burning men haters. I just didn’t know how to express my form of feminism so I kept much of it inside – until I had a daughter. I’m so relieved that finally we are at least openly talking about feminism without being stereotyped (so much any way). I’m proud my son is a feminist. Steps forward…

  3. Having read this I think I too am a feminist… am I allowed to call myself that as a man?? 🤔🤣 anyway IMO like any topic and issue we have our extreme ends of the spectrum… but its what you value and project that matters! Great piece (id never heard of radfems before) #blogcrush

    1. Men can most definitely be feminists – welcome to the club! I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the extremists, it’s just a shame that they get so much more air time than the rest of ‘the group’ whoever they might be, and tarnish the label.

  4. Great post. Yes we need more talk around this. I’ve had mixed reactions since I’ve started to talk and write about feminist topics.

  5. I found this post highly interesting and enlightening. I’m alot like you with my idea of feminism, only on occasion I do shake my head and think some go too far #blogcrush

  6. What a great post. I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist but I do believe in equality. My 10 year old pointed out a Fireman and her Dad said (with a hint of sarcasm) he’s a fireperson now, we can’t use fireman it’s not fair to the women who do the job. My daughter retorted, but man comes from mankind and that relates to both men and women doesn’t it? There followed a long discussion, which I won’t repeat here but I was pleased that my daughter was able to question rather than just accept.

  7. I think most people look at feminism as fighting for equal rights socially and politically. But I like how you’ve pointed it out in your blog post. #blogcrush

  8. Fabulous post! SO many people take it too far and want to stomp on men and that just negates what their mission is… or should be. Equality for all. I am so glad my daughter is growing up in a generation that has people like Emma Watson to look up to. I don’t label myself or go to rallies or get into debates. I am an introvert and I prefer to be happy with the rights that I have, vote when there can be a change for the better, and work to be the best role model for my daughter.
    Cheers to a fabulous, well thought out, professional, educated, and beautifully written post!

  9. You know what I love is when I see your posts I know I will enjoy reading them and reflect on them too. I agree with a lot of what you say. I know my 17 year old feminist son has issues around radical feminism but I learn from him telling me about them as I am a bit out of date as don’t have the time to live and breathe this stuff like I did when I was a student. Choice – if we have choice, we have personal power and that’s what equality and fairness is about both of which matter hugely to me. I have learned so much from listening to my sons. My eldest once made me chuckle when he got his first girlfriend and said “She’s a feminist Mum, not as much as you and me but at least she is one!” That’s a job well done even if my housework is less than perfect and my children don’t have straight As exams wise I should read you blog every day – I always enjoy it #BlogCrush

    1. Thanks Kate, that’s so kind! Beaming smile right here 🙂 Your sons sound fab! I don’t have much time to pay attention either – I feel like I’m still discovering my feminist identity (to make it sound cheesy) but life’s a journey, right? And it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you go along for the ride 🙂

  10. As a mom raising 6 girls, feminism is one of those things I’m not sure what to do with. I fiercely support my girls’ right to choose. I tell them they can say no. I buy the toys and clothes they like not what someone says they should wear — and I often find myself shopping in the “boys” section. At the same time, as I write this, my girls are painting their nails with sparkly polish. Does that make me feminist? Don’t know, and honestly I’m too busy raising my girls to care.

  11. This is great! I find this could also apply to so many other labels too!! I often get flack because my blog is called Our Unschooling Journey and I am judged (sometimes quite harshly) that we are not unschoolers because we use curriculum and books. Sometimes I think we worry so much about labels that we forget what our point of starting it all was. #blogcrush

    1. Oh totally. We’re planning to home ed, and I like the idea of unschooling but don’t think I could go full on ‘no structure’ – I bet there isn’t one home ed family that does it the same way as another, whatever they label it.

  12. I think you just helped me reconnect with my inner Feminist. I fall in the group who rolls their eyes at people who call themselves feminist because I associate the word with radical bra-burning lesbians who hate men. Sounds funny but that’s the image I get in my head. However, I am for equality and women are still treated unfairly and in some parts of the world, lower than a dog. So thank you for helping me to embrace feminism and view it in a different way. #BlogCrush

  13. I love this post! I agree with you completely. Feminism does have a fairly universal meaning – being equality. However, every person is a feminist in their own way. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to be a feminist. It will mean something different to everyone and I think that is okay. #BlogCrush

  14. I love this post so much! I really think that it is so timely because I see myself as a feminist, but I am a bit scared to call myself one because some ultra-conservative Christians view feminism as anti-God. I was reading this Christian devotional called True Women 101 and I just could not agree with all of its points. It is so refreshing to read that you can own your own kind of feminism, and that really, it just means that you believe in equality. I really believe that Jesus is a feminist!

    Anyway, as a feminist…I want to:
    1. Be a happy mother who stays/ works at home with the kids because I CHOOSE TO
    2. Be co-leaders with my husband in our family
    3. Defend people who are being oppressed
    4. Teach my two sons the value of respect for all people
    5. Continue to speak my mind and show kindness to all people

    Thank you for this!

  15. I just came to the conclusion that I’m a feminist! It feels weird, I’m not quite sure what to do with that info now!

    My daughter is a bigger, feminist than me (she’s 13).

    Don’t think I’ll be shouting it from the roof tops but rather more wear it like a badge, I’ll be more open to thought in the future.

    1. Haha, excellent! Shouting from the rooftops isn’t really my style either (unless I’m really worked up about something!) but I think it’s great to be able to confidently say you’re a feminist ad be ok with what that means for you 🙂

  16. Great post, and yes, even feminists are confused. I’m a radfem by the wiki-def. It patriarchy, not men that I oppose. I just hope we can all get together and make it better for all of us. #blogcrush xoxo

  17. Brilliant post Alice. Agree, feminism should just be about equality between the sexes, but it has become something so much more complicated, even radical. It is really quite simple but the ‘labels’ complicate it.

  18. Great post – such a balanced view of feminism that I’d be happy to put my name next to! As you say, the word has so many negative connotations and it’s one of those ideals that gets banded around, so it’s great to read a post that boils it down to its simplest form. #blogcrush

  19. Wow! I love this post! I am a feminist. Never been afraid to say it. I’m not radical and I do feminine things as well because i am a woman. We all do need to own feminism. That way we make giant steps! Great post and I love the flow! Glad i stumbled on this from Twitter!

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